I live and work in a border world: that slice of land at the extremities of two municipalities that is too far from the convenient centre of either county to concern the core administration and residents. If you have ever lived near a border, you know that sometimes you have more in common with the people on the other side of the line than you do with the further-flung group to which you belong. That’s how it feels to me.

The Crazy 8 Barn & Garden in located just inside the eastern Chatham-Kent boundary, but I live a few kilometres inside Elgin County.  Even though the border is marked with signs most people may not even acknowledge the difference as the scenery doesn’t immediately change and we all still speak the same language, do the same jobs and know the same people.  Most times the lines we draw on maps make working together more complex.  Like most obstacles, they can be overcome as people who want to work together will find a way.

West Elgin Country Holiday Tour
That’s how the Country Holiday Tour began a few years ago.  A few businesses in West Elgin and a couple in Chatham-Kent pulled together to create a route that meandered from shop to shop through the countryside.  The event has had lots of success and faced challenges, too. It is back even stronger this year!  It may be the only weekend this year that I miss having the store open on a full time basis.  The kick-off to the holiday season, put everyone in a good mood.

Many of you who were past customers of our gift shop and café will remember this event.  Although Crazy 8 Barn & Garden is no longer involved in the event, I thought you should know it is happening Friday to Sunday, Nov. 3 to 5. The route stretches from Eagle to the western county line, just south of Clachan.  There are many local businesses sharing spaces to keep the route shorter.  You could complete all of your holiday shopping in this one weekend.

From home décor, baking, beer and soaps to hand-made crafts, floral and greenery arrangements, metal works, vintage and wool and much more.  Many restaurants are included so gather up your family and friends and make a day of it. Maps are available at your first stop, which you can find here.

This is the link to their Facebook page which also has more info here. I wish this group of local retailers the best tour possible.  The fact that I live and work in a border world

I Biked Elgin County

As I pedaled up what I hoped to be my last big hill of the day, my thigh muscle started to pulse.  That pre-ache phase of a charley-horse when you don’t know if you can wish the pain away or if the muscle will snap into itself.  I was over 95 kilometres into a 100 kilometre plus ride through the four Ports of Elgin County last Friday afternoon.  Manfred had just watched me climb past the mid-point of this slope and had driven on to our appointed end of the route where he would pick me up.  All the ports were behind me and I just had to make this last hill and the gentle ride along a tree edged, black top road to the county line.

I prayed to the cycling gods, to let me make it to level ground.  With each push of the pedal, my leg threatened to break me.

As I pulled onto the gravel shoulder at the top of the hill, the pain remained a phantom.  I gulped water and dill pickle juice like a camel.  Ate dates and almonds and gummy bears like a horse with its head in the feed bag.  And I looked at my ride cue sheet that said I had to pedal only 6.9 kilometres to finish my challenge.

I live in a border world where cycling can take place in many counties in one day.

Me getting ready to face the first hill of the day.

In the Spring, I set a goal to bicycle Essex, Chatham-Kent and Elgin Counties this year.  Sadly, I just have gotten it together.  I made the goal.  I made the maps. I just didn’t make the time.  So, here I was in the last week of October and it is now or never.  For 2023 at least.
With the weather looking quite fine and the wind forecast to be from the the Southwest, I decided to ride most of the length of Elgin County, from my home through the four ports long Lake Erie, last Thursday.  It is a 100 km ride.  Last year, I completed 4 rides of this length and this year, for some unfathomable reason – I think it might have been an horrendous chest cold in July – I have only ridden 100 km once this year – on June 21.  So, with my riding dreams deflating about as regularly as my no-leak tires (another dilemma) I threw out all my excuses and got ready to ride.

I was disappointed Thursday to wake to a rainy morning and postponed my ride to Friday as I was giving myself six hours to ride the route.  I woke early on Friday morning to have a pre-ride breakfast at least two hours before I hit the road.  As the dawn began to break, the rain arrive.  It drizzled and poured and spit until after 9 a.m.  Then the sun arrived.

Getting on the Road
By 10:30 I was on the road.  Most times, I ride gravel roads, but I added in more paved portions to increase my speed a little.  I wound my way down to the Port Glasgow marina which was my most westerly port.  This is where I realized what I knew to be true.  Each port would be at the bottom of a hill, on the edge of a creek that had carved the valleys out for eons.  This is what makes Elgin County beautiful, treed and a challenging southwestern Ontario location for cycling.
I live and work in a border world where many back roads are carpeted by leaves this time of year.

Many back roads are carpeted by leaves this time of year

At the beginning of my ride, I stopped often to take pictures of the stunning fall colours, but soon realized that I needed to hustle onwards.  The highlights of the ride were were the shimmering Maples near Port Stanley, the combining of corn at top the lake cliffs near Port Bruce, the architecture of homes that reflect the prosperous days of settlements, and the effort that  Elgin County is putting towards cycling in the municipality. At the end, what I loved most was seeing Manfred, sitting in the truck, just 100 km. from the county line.  He wouldn’t let me stop there and encouraged me to go right to end of the road, where I was proud to stroke this ride off my 2023 cycling goal.

Oh yes, and my post ride dinner at Izzy’s Schooner in Port Burwell.  I suggest you take a ride (car or bike) and enjoy their hospitality and menu.

I’m writing more about this day and maybe will share it with you in the cold months of winter when I relive the day I cycled to the 4 Ports of Elgin County.  Check out our Backroad Biking.
I live and work in a border world that has many unknown natural delights.